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Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Are They the Same?

By Linda K. Creech

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:32

Reading through some old journals of mine, I came across sermon notes from a few years ago. In it the preacher spoke of forgiveness.

“How can I not forgive someone who has wronged me, who has hurt me, when I have been so forgiven by God Himself?” Reading that as a Christian therapist, however, made me think of the following…

God’s forgiveness is there. It is a free gift for anyone to receive. It’s there, just for the asking. God does not force His forgiveness on anyone. No, it’s a choice He allows each person to make. Yet, it’s there, just for the asking.

God’s forgiveness is there. It is not received, however, until there is the acknowledgment of where that individual is in relation to God. Until there is a confession, an agreement with God, of what they have done to sin against Him. Until there is an admission of guilt or wrong before God, admitting what they have done to cause the deep wound that created the chasm between them – the separation between them and their Creator. Then, and only then, will forgiveness be afforded the repentant person and reconciliation can occur.

God is reconciling sinful man to Himself through the blood of Jesus Christ. But the reconciliation does not occur until there is an admittance of wrong - the admittance of the wound caused - until that person acknowledges their sin and asks for forgiveness.

God knows their heart and if there is true repentance. Scripture tells us that God searches our hearts and knows even the motives behind our thoughts. So, God knows if the person’s confession, their words, are true, and if true repentance is there. When that happens, then there is reconciliation.

Going back to the sermon notes…

I have to say I disagree. Forgiveness does NOT equate to reconciliation. No, my forgiveness is there. I have forgiven those who’ve wounded me so. Reconciliation, however, has not yet happened.God’s forgiveness is there. He desires that all may come to know Him through His Son Jesus Christ. But God’s forgiveness is not given until it is sought.

Only when an individual admits their sin, believes that Jesus is God’s Son, that His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead made the only way for payment of their sins, confesses this to God asking for His forgiveness and surrendering total control of their life to Him, can there be reconciliation between that individual and their Creator.

Only when the person who wounded me comes to me acknowledging what they have done wrong to wound me and show that by their actions – I see a repentant heart and notice the difference in their behavior toward me that is consistent with what they are confessing – only then is reconciliation between us possible.

If you’ve had difficulty forgiving someone because you couldn’t see reconciling with them, then change your mindset!

You’re not reconciling. No, that comes after forgiveness and with several steps in between. Just sit alone with God and ask Him about forgiving that person. Ask Him to help you see them as He does.

Admit to Him you can’t do it on your own and ask Him to forgive them through you. Let Him do it for you and then when those feelings of hurt and anger resurface (and they will), take it as a reminder that that has already been taken care of. Thank God for that reminder!

God has taken Linda K. on a unique journey serving Him stateside in places like Lake Tahoe, NV, Lake Placid, NY, but mostly in ministry in Florida. Her journey has taken her to international work in Columbia, Jamaica, and Peru, as well as serving for 7 years as a missionary in Brazil. Her journey with God has also taken her through some very difficult times such her husband’s forced termination and caring for her mother for four years until her recent death. As a Christian therapist she hopes to lead people on a journey where they learn to strengthen their connection with God and each other.

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